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Isaak Babel's El'ia Isaakovich as a New Jewish Type

Gabriella Safran
Slavic Review
Vol. 61, No. 2 (Summer, 2002), pp. 253-272
DOI: 10.2307/2697117
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2697117
Page Count: 20
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Isaak Babel's El'ia Isaakovich as a New Jewish Type
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Abstract

This article analyzes a 1916 story by Isaak Babel', "El'ia Isaakovich and Margarita Prokof'evna" (published in Maksim Gor'kii's Letopis'), in which a Jewish businessman from Odessa takes refuge with an Orel prostitute to avoid being sent back to the Pale of Settlement by the police. Safran sees El'ia Isaakovich as a character type new to mainstream Russian literature, a strong Jewish man who is neither a victim nor an exploiter of Russians but can inspire them to positive change. Safran pursues four related lines of reasoning: she sets the story in light of Gor'kii's attitude toward Babel' and the 'Jewish Question"; she reads it as a parody of the urban myth of the Jewish false prostitute; she compares it to Jewish folktales about Elijah the Prophet; and she considers the hero's repetition of the word nivroko, a formula that Odessa Jews used to ward off the evil eye.

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